Confidential Access

News from Science

Friday, 31 March 2017

Civil Engineer Visit

On Friday the 17th of March, a selection of students in Years 9 and above had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Mark Wheeler, a civil engineer. Whilst here, he outlined what his career was about and how he has developed and learned after becoming an engineer. He explained that civil engineering is a field that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical, artificial and naturally built environment around us.

In addition, he gave as an insight into what his job is composed of including designing and building works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings. He informed us that civil engineering takes place working with a variety of people including governments, individual homeowners and even Transnational Corporations. We were educated on how it ties in with a number of fields including mathematics, physics, law, business and sociology, and as such, is a great career choice as part of STEM for anyone who has multiple interests and skill sets.

Our presenter showed us a set of clips that outlined the biggest civil engineering disasters including: The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse and The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse. These demonstrated that, small but crucial mistakes (such as not factoring in wind speed and aerodynamics to the calculations) would have dangerous repercussions - proving that engineering is very much an exact science! As well as this, he touched upon some other branches of engineering: (bio)medical engineering, aerospace engineering, electronic/mechanical engineering and chemical engineering. We found out what a wide scope of careers that involved engineering and how they require a lot of skill and logic. Also, our presenter gave us a brief overview of the ways in which you could become an engineer, including an apprenticeship route, university course or work experience. He shared with us his own personal career experiences, explained the benefits and disadvantages to each choice and gave us advice and suggestions on current opportunities to take.

At the end, Mr Wheeler gave us examples of past Presdales students who have gone into engineering as a career and who have won many awards and achievements within the industry. Our presenter was happy to answer any questions we had about the field, his job, or becoming an engineer in general; and the students intuitively asked detailed questions.

On behalf of everyone who had the opportunity to attend this interactive and educational presentation, I would like to thank Mr Wheeler for giving up his time to come and speak to us and the science department for organising a very inspiring talk.

Ayesha Unadkat, Year 9

Interview with Mark Wheeler

Mark Wheeler is civil engineer working for WSP. He has been doing his job for 23 years and on Friday 17th of March he came to talk to Year 9+. However, eight Year 8s (myself included) were given the chance to interview him and here are a few of the questions and answers:

What did you study?
For A-level I studied Maths, Physics and Geography then I went on and got a degree in civil engineering.

Did you always want to be a civil engineer, if not what got you into it?
When I was doing my A-levels I didn’t know what I wanted to be. After school I didn’t go to university; instead I applied for a bunch of jobs. One of those jobs was at a civil engineering firm. After a year of working there I decided I enjoyed it. This is what I wanted to do. So then I went and got a degree in civil engineering.

Can you get your job any other way?
You can start off by doing an apprenticeship from GCSE. You could do an apprenticeship degree which is a lot harder but it makes you more valuable to the firm. Or you could join through the graduate route by going to university.

What’s the best part of your job?
I think there are many good parts but my favourite parts are the variation of work and environments, sometimes I am outside, other times I am at the office. The immense sense of achievement after a project, the rewarding feeling of pride and getting to say ‘I did that’ is really good. Also there is the fact that every project is unique.

What kind of projects have you been involved in?
I have been involved in thousands of projects. But civil engineers do all sorts of things depending on their field (purely technical, geo-technical or working mostly with customers). We build things from nuclear power stations to railroads, from bridges and tunnels to warehouses and depots and even skyscrapers and data centres. And environmental projects as well, like wind turbines or cleaning up contaminated land.

How long do projects tend to be?
It depends on the project - it can be 6 months to 15+ years.

Is there any part of your job that you dislike?
Well there is the general work like filling out forms and paper work, credit checks, Quality Assurance and all the different systems. 

Do you work with architectural firms?
Yes we do, loads. They do the plans mostly though we actually build it along with others because we are just lots of groups of specialised people working together.

How many types of engineers are there?
There are 5 main fields, usually most engineers fall into one category. They are:
I. Civil
II. Mechanical
III. Chemical
IV. Technical
V. Software

And finally:
Are there any extra skills or degrees you might need?
English is always helpful and if you want to work overseas another language is good. Being organised and having good time management is useful too.

For me and the other Year 8s involved, it was really interesting and got us to consider a future career in science.

Anthe Beston, Year 8

Year 9 Science Trip to GSK

On Friday the 24th of March, a group of year nine students attended the launch of an interschool science competition called Go4SET held in the Ware GSK Headquarters. The competition is sponsored by EDT and it hopes to inspire young people to go into STEM careers and to gain experience that will make them stand out in the eyes of potential employers. Those completing the process would ‘graduate’ with a silver science CREST certificate and Industrial Cadet Award.

On arrival, we had a presentation led by the co-ordinators of the event, and they explained the ideas behind the project we would be studying, whilst we arranged our teams. Overall we had three teams: Presdales Brilliance, Excellence and Radiance. They were composed of around 6-7 girls per group with different strengths and ideas. We then had some time to choose our project categories from among: Our Healthy School, Eco-Classroom and Energy Sources for Our School. Next, we met our mentors (GSK employers) that will work alongside us in our project development and 10 week course, one of which was Steph, a recent GSK recruit. Next, we spent some time planning how we would manage our time in our weekly meetings and brainstormed ideas and thoughts with our mentors about potential themes, marketing, research and presentation ideas for our projects. We mainly considered conducting surveys and interviews with our peers, parents and teachers.

After this, we went on a tour around the drug manufacturing site, led by a GSK pharmaceutical managing director and explored the various prospects to their drug development process including the granulating, compression and coating stages. Our tour guide explained the importance of the protective clothing and goggles and gave us new information about the GSK production line and the long process to get drugs on the market. Our volunteers listened eagerly and inquisitively asked questions that our guide was happy to answer. After lunch, our presenter explained project management to us and to illustrate the point we were set a task where we had to plan, design and build the tallest tower that would support the weight of a golf ball made entirely from spaghetti and jelly babies! The project had to be completed within 30 minutes and within budget.

All of the teams set off to a roaring start and the Presdales models were certainly the most well thought out and geometric ones there! Soon enough, our time had run out and everyone was eager to find the winners of the challenge. The tallest tower was built by St. Edmond’s School (over 50cm in height), however the 2nd tallest and the most economic was built by Presdales Brillance and, therefore, they were the overall winner!  In our final hour or so, we finalised our thoughts for our projects and came up with a main focus, as well as planning our time in the next few meetings using a Gant Chart. Finally, the session had come to an end and everyone was given a set of science-themed stickers and wristbands to commemorate the day. We then left the site and began to find our way back to school; we were all raring to commence our projects the following week, in preparation to the presentation we would make back in GSK, 10 weeks later.

On behalf of those attending I would like to say a big thank you to the science department who organised the visit, encouraged students to attend and signed us up to an event that will prove to be educational, beneficial and enjoyable to all those taking part.

Ayesha Unadkat, Year 9